Guess. Guess! Go on, guess!
We’ve all been there. The particulars are unimportant: auntie Wilma and the new cover for her phone; odd neighbour Fred and the diamond tiara he’s parading up and down the hallway in for your benefit; bothersome Bob at work and the coffee he just splashed down on your desk.
The point is, they’re aggressive, in your face:
Go on, they say. Go on. Guess!
I don’t want to, you reply.
Go on, guess. Guess how much it cost?
I don’t know.
I don’t know! you say.
Well how much would you think? Go on, guess! Guess!
Yes, they want you to play the guessing game. It is a lopsided game, where you – the sole contestant – are there solely to be the dupe, for the benefit of audience-and-host-rolled-into-one, your inquisitor.
The truth is, it can’t end well. You know Bob wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t a ridiculous price for a coffee. Worse, you even have a very good idea what the correct figure should be, but to state this is socially unacceptable.
What to do?
There are at least three ways to play this game, but only one will save you, dear reader…
You overestimate and accidentally kill their story’s impact.
How much for a cup of coffee? Hmm, well honestly, around here, anything up to fifty bucks wouldn’t surprise me…
Risk: Anyone in the vicinity might overhear your ridiculous guess.
Nice Guy Option
You deliberate before arriving at a figure that should be safe enough for the story to have its intended impact.
…I dunno, a buck?
Hopefully this will suffice and you can feign surprise at the inflated figure.
Risk: Sometimes, the storyteller may viciously attack your estimate:
A buck?! Are you crazy?! A regular coffee is twice that.
Now you expected to play the stupid guessing game again, closer to the ‘normal’ price, ever more acutely aware that you are dealing with a moron. You know you would be better off disengaging from this person further, but goddamn those societal conventions!
Sometimes, there is more than one iteration of the moronic guessing until you submit, in some variant of the following manner:
Like a chimp yielding to the alpha, you make this strange sound at the back of your throat (not unlike a whimper) and waggle your hands, like you are the moron here, before mumbling a figure that satisfies them.
Having done so, you then continue the charade, showing great surprise at the fractionally higher number your conqueror fires back at you, even though in your heart you knew how much the damn overpriced coffee was in the first place.
So much for society. Better, perhaps, to choose the sociopathic option and retain a shred of your dignity.
Sociopathic option, eh? That sounds nice. Tell me more.
You state the exact figure because you’re a sociopath, a worldly and knowledgeable one, and to hell with this guy.
If you paid more than three dollars, you’re an idiot. But it was eight dollars thirty, wasn’t it? You overpaid for your coffee by about three hundred percent, Bob.
Risk: You develop a taste for plainspeaking.